In post-COVID world, Kenneth Cole says fashion business destined to change


When the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided, clothing designer Kenneth Cole believes the fashion industry will need to make itself relevant to consumers.

A screenshot of Kenneth Cole as he participates in the Fashinnovation Worldwide Talks 2020 livestream event.

“This is a chance to redefine ourselves in fashion,” said Cole, who was taking part in the two day livestream Fashinnovation Worldwide Talks 2020. “(The pandemic) could be a blessing if we approach it the right way.”

Cole, who is president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, has a long history of using fashion as a tool for social change. He is probably best known for his efforts to fight the spread of AID. He recently put his industrial muscle behind environmental issues.

“I feel that fashion is one of the most powerful forms of social expression,” said Cole in the livestreamed event. “It’s a form that is available to everyone. If someone doesn’t have a chance to get to know you on a personal basis, fashion helps them get to know you based on how you represent yourself (through your fashion).”

Fashion, however, isn’t a necessity, especially during times of crisis, said Cole. “No one needs what we have to sell.” That’s why fashion has to make itself relevant to consumer.

“I need to relate to the customer,” said Cole. “It’s not just what they wear on their body but what’s on their mind.”

In the wake of COVID-19, Cole said his company has tried to pivots its relevance by saluting first responders on the front line of fighting COVID-19.

Kenneth Cole Productions has been using its Instagram account to honor “The new Courageous Class,” which includes doctors and nurses struggling to defeat the coronavirus.

Kenneth Cole Productions is saluting first responders on its Instagram account.

Employees of his company have been encouraged to recommend people in their lives, who are first responders, said Cole.

“We celebrate the individuals who are heroes… They go to work because we can’t,” said Cole.

After COVID-19 passes, Cole said the fashion industry is going to change “in a way that’s so badly needed.”

“We are going to see a reset,” said Cole.

That’s because, he said, “We’re going to be a different population.” People will consume and transact in different ways.

“If we (the fashion industry) are effective in drawing up our new role, we need to be reaevent, more engaging, and more experiential (for consumers),” said Cole.

But, Cole said, the fashion industry should be able to weather a post-COVID world because of it nature. “Fashion is built on a platform of change.” Each year, each season, fashion reinvents itself.

“It’s not about the new normal (for the fashion industry) but the next normal,” said Cole.

That said, Cole explained, “I’m not sure anyone of us can figure out… how this plays out down the road.”